Canadian women's rugby 7s misses Olympic quarter-finals after loss to France

Canada's women's rugby sevens team missed out on the quarter-finals at the Olympics after a 31-0 loss to France in pool play on Friday in Tokyo.

Team to play for 9th as ROC qualifies for knockout round

Canadian rugby sevens captain Ghislaine Landry, right, evades France's Séraphine Okemba during Canada's 31-0 loss in Tokyo on Friday. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Canada's women's rugby sevens team missed out on the quarter-finals at the Olympics after a 31-0 loss to France in pool play on Friday in Tokyo.

That loss dropped Canada to a 1-2 record and third place in Pool B in a tournament where the top two teams in each of the three pools advance to the quarter-finals. The Canadians needed to wait and see if their point differential of -12 — a critical tiebreaker — would be enough to send them to the knockout round as one of the two best third-place teams.

But China's 29-0 blowout win over Japan pushed Canada outside the top eight on point differential, and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team held on for the final berth despite losing to New Zealand.

Canada defeated Brazil 45-0 in a placement game and will move on to face Kenya on Saturday in Tokyo (Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET in Canada) to determine ninth place.

New Zealand will face Fiji in the first of the women's semifinals, while Great Britain will take on France in the other. 

Canada (1-2) entered the Games with medal expectations after capturing bronze in rugby sevens' Olympic debut in Rio in 2016.

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Canada coach Mick Byrne, an Australian, said a necessary focus on getting back to fitness rather than playing competitive games leading into the Olympics had hurt the team's performance.

"This program was shut down in November and December, and we had all of May off," he said in reference to restrictions imposed by COVID-19. "I'm not making excuses — these are just facts of life. That's a lot of time for players to lose condition.

"I can't be disappointed with them because of the work they've done to get here today."

The team opened its tournament in Tokyo with a 33-0 win over Brazil, but fell to Fiji 26-12 later on Thursday. France (3-0) secured top spot in Pool B, while Fiji (2-1) defeated Brazil in Friday's first match and finished second.

The French received the kick from Canadian captain Ghislaine Landry to start the match, and a darting run by Séraphine Okemba opened the scoring for France. Jade Ulutule then converted to make it 7-0.

A Canadian turnover at the breakdown gave possession back to France, who proceeded to knock it on. France pinned the Canadians on their own try line after the scrum, but couldn't capitalize.

After a penalty on a Canadian lineout, France scored off the attacking scrum on a line-breaking dash from Anne-Cécile Ciofani. The unconverted try made the score 12-0.

An attempt later in the half by Canada's Elissa Alarie to get the edge on the outside was bottled up by the French defence, who forced a lineout. The frenetic possessions that followed ultimately resulted in a try for Ulutule, who converted to push the lead to 19-0 at the half.

Turnovers critical in final pool match

Canada received the ball to start the second half, but struggled to break the French line. Landry was eventually able to pick the ball off the deck and sprint inside the French 22-metre line.

Canada then turned the ball over within metres of the try line on another penalty at the breakdown.

France's women's rugby sevens team defeated Canada 31-0 in pool play on Friday in Tokyo. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Turnovers continued to haunt the Canadians in the second half. A French attacking scrum led to a try from Carla Neisen on a clever show-and-go move, while Chloé Jacquet's try to close out the match also came off a turnover.

Canada entered its final pool match down a player, after the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced that Keyara Wardley would miss the remainder of the Olympics after sustaining a hip injury against Fiji on Thursday.


Benjamin Blum

Senior writer

Benjamin Blum is a senior writer with CBC News and previously worked with CBC Sports in the same capacity. He holds a master's of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax.

with files from The Associated Press

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